I am so grateful to all of you who read this blog and pray that God would bless your celebrations, whatever they look like this year. We’re celebrating at home (for the first time ever!), with a feast and whole lot of FaceTiming with family.
Thank you so much for your support and encouragement over the past year! I plan to take the next two weeks off but will be back mid-January with my annual “Best Books of the Year” list. And there are some good ones on this time, holy cow.
Our pastor has been inviting musicians within our church body to record and share songs with the congregation, and a few weeks ago, it was my turn.
I had written this song a month or so before he asked, for a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer and was just beginning treatment. But I have noticed that songs and poems in particular often mean one thing to me when I write them, but then take on an entirely difference shape once they’re finished—as though I thought we were building a really big sandbox, and God knew all along we were framing a house.
This song has that quality more than any others—it became a prayer I sang during those first weeks, as things around our state began closing and we started to understand that a white-coated savior wasn’t going to swoop in with a vaccine and make this all go away. When our pastor called and asked if I’d be interested in recording a song for our church—now worshiping in various rooms throughout our county—I knew exactly which song I would share.
I want to share it with you, too.
For You, Lord
You are my light and my salvation— what shall I fear? You are the stronghold of my life— of what shall I be afraid? Not of sickness or death, suffering, fear, or shame. Nothing can separate me from your love or remove from me your grace.
You have said, “Seek my face,” and so, O God, you alone will I pursue. But you know me, God, how I go astray— keep me close to you. All the days of my life, may I never know a day apart from you. You are my shelter, my refuge, and I will cling to you.
I will wait for you, Lord
When we reach those doors, my hand in yours— what, Lord, shall I say? But the door long barred swings open for the passkey of your name. You clothe me in your garments of goodness, mercy, peace, and joy; you say, “Child of mine, come inside— enter and enjoy.”
Twist and turns: this year has been full of them! The most recent twist came as a surprise even to us, though we ended up being the ones to make the decision. Here is how it went:
We have loved homeschooling our girls, and we fully intended to keep doing it. I bought bins full of books for the coming school year and read through them with the vigor some folks bring to a buffet: the periodic table, ancient civilizations, the construction of pyramids, biographies—I heaped my plate with them and ate quickly so I could go back for more.
But as I tinkered with spreadsheets and lesson plans, something peculiar happened: I felt enthusiasm for the coming year—but no peace. I felt ill at ease, as though something wasn’t fitting the way it was meant to. I tweaked plans, I prayed about it, and yet still I felt restless. When I finally loosened my grip on the problem enough to mention it to Mitch, he took the news as though I’d put words to something that had nagged him for a while.
That night I hardly slept, and when I did sleep I skimmed the surface fretfully, dreaming my way through the problem still. By the next afternoon, my brain was overheating, I was exhausted, and yet, peace softened the line of the horizon ahead: by that evening, we knew what we needed to do.
At this point, we didn’t know if it was possible for our girls to return to school—the school the girls had attended before has grown and classes have filled up. We doubted they’d have openings for all three of our school-aged girls (Phoebe started kindergarten this year!), but we needed to give it a try. That was what we knew.
Then: emails and waiting. And further considering. What had changed, we asked ourselves and each other. Why home school for just two years and then return to school? The single biggest change, we realized, was that we are now attending the church that launched the school, and a number of the teachers, students, and board members are now not just friends but church family as well. We wanted them to be a meaningful part of our daughters’ lives, and we wanted to get to know their kids. There were other factors, but that was the biggest one. So, we waited.
And behold! The school had openings for each of our girls, and I abruptly shifted gears from planning out a year’s worth of history readings to measuring kids and shopping for uniforms. It seems that we are going back to where we started—but we aren’t. Our home addition was made possible by the those two years of homeschooling, and the relationship the girls have with one another and with Josie (two years is two-thirds of her life, after all) was worth the detour into unstructured afternoons and time spent around the table, feasting and reading Shakespeare together.
There are things I miss about homeschooling—and things I don’t miss. There are things I felt apprehensive about returning to school—but they were few. There are many more things I am enjoying, not because I think school is a shortcut to perfect kids, but because it is right where we need to be right now. I am excited to see what God will do through this.
We have serious work to do. Work like dressing up like fairies and watching the movie A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Exploring epic tide pools with friends, and watching another friend’s python swallow a rat whole. Picking strawberries; filing papers; finishing book after book after book. And, of course, eating ice cream.
The end of the school year is serious business.
And because we’re so absorbed in it, I’m giving myself the week off. I’ll be back next week with a full post, but this week, I’ll leave you with these photos, taken by Sarah (and thus, with an endearingly—ahem—short perspective). I am so often the photographer at our house that I rarely appear in photos, but Sarah took a turn and snapped some of my favorite pictures ever.
I may need to leave my camera out where she can find it more often.
For the last four years, we’ve been homeschooling part time with the support of an amazing Classical school. Our daughters attended class three days a week and studied at home with me on the remaining two. All decisions about curriculum were made; I taught art classes and watched my daughters flourish alongside their classmates. Attending this school was our plan for the foreseeable future.
But then the future took a sharp turn around a corner, and I can no longer see where it leads (Anne of Green Gables reference intended). A few months ago, we learned that a change to the school’s schedule meant that it would no longer be the perfect fit it had been for our family.
When I learned this, I stood watching my husband wash dishes, the scrub brush going around and around the inner lid of a pot, and I said, Well, I guess we could homeschool.
Queasiness. That was what I initially felt. But within an hour, the fear had given way to another sensation, one the bubbled up from some buried recess in my heart and surprised us both: excitement. The prospect of homeschooling our daughters full-time excited me.
The re-enrollment deadline went by, and we did not turn in our application. I taught my last classes, cleaned out the art cupboard, held my daughters’ hands as we said goodbye to the friends we’ve made over the last four years, to the teachers we have loved, and to the school that has served us so well.
In her beautiful book Teaching From Rest, Sarah MacKenzie writes:
You are Peter. You, mother of that little flock of children you have there. Motherhood is a mad and swirling sea. It is wind beating on waves, storm on the horizon, tumult on the waters. It’s bigger than you can ever hope to be. You are clinging to your boat, quite a distance from the land now, and the storm is rougher than you imagined it would be.
And then God calls you to homeschool—to step out on the water. “Come.” Homeschool? Must I take on this too? “Take heart; it is I. Have no fear.”
And so you do. You step out of the boat.
Crossing the parking lot that last day felt very much like stepping out of a boat onto the waters.
So, that is the update on life: big and exciting stuff for our family. The update on blogging may not strike you the same way, but you are a gracious bunch, and I feel comfortable assuming that you will receive it well. I will say first, though, that I am not retiring this blog. So that’s out now.
What I am doing is reducing my blogging schedule a bit. Since starting this blog four years ago, I have posted a book review every single week, with only a few exceptions. But between taking on some additional writing assignments and beginning that unsteady trek across the sea of home education (I have a lot of reading and learning things the hard way ahead of me!), I’m going to move toward posting reviews every other week on the blog. I love writing for you all, and I hope the existence of the book list helps soften the blow here. That and the assurance that I have some really great books on the calendar to review this summer.
Thank you all for reading this blog and, better yet, for reading the books I review here for you! I love hearing about the ones you have loved, so just for fun (and because this is a bittersweet post that I’d like to end on a sweet note), would you share in the comments your favorite books that you’ve found through this site? I would love to know which ones resonated most deeply with you. Survival tips on homeschooling are most welcome, too!
Hi, I'm Théa! I review classic literature, poetry, nonfiction, fantasy, picture books—children's books luminous with grace and beauty. These are books our family loved and that I think you'll love too. Thanks for stopping by!
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